Pro-Trump PAC run by McMahon pledged $18.5 million the same day DeSantis deemed WWE an 'essential business' in Orlando


  • Photo via WWE

Earlier this week, it was discovered that the Governor's office had declared WWE an “essential business” during the coronavirus pandemic, a label that allows the wrestling league to continue taping events at their Orlando studio.

The “essential” label didn’t make much sense to anyone, and in our first article, we speculated that either a massive campaign donation was promised or DeSantis thought spandex-clad guys wrasslin' counted as church.

Well, we weren’t that far off.

On the same day that WWE was deemed an “essential business,” the American First Action political action committee, which is chaired by WWE owner Vince McMahon’s wife, Linda, announced a total of $18.5 million in television advertisement spending in the Orlando ($11.3 million) and Tampa ($7.1 million) media markets.

According to a press release from the super PAC, the money will be used for pro-Trump broadcast advertising from Labor Day through Election Day.

Obviously, having major Trump ties has its advantages. Under Florida’s original “stay-at-home order,” the wrestling entertainment company was not allowed to continue to operate. However, during a Monday press conference, Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings said the WWE was given the special status after “some conversation” with Gov. Ron DeSantis.

“I think initially there was a review that was done and they were not initially deemed an essential business,” said Demings. “With some conversation with the governor’s office regarding the governor’s order, they were deemed an essential business. Therefore, they were allowed to remain open.”

What’s remarkable about this is that while every other professional sports league in existence has been crippled by the coronavirus pandemic, the WWE is now allowed to continue operating, even after two of its employees from the Orlando studio tested positive for coronavirus.

But the McMahon family has a long history with Donald Trump. Not only is Trump an actual WWE Hall of Famer, over the years the McMahons have been among the president’s largest campaign donors.

Not to mention, just last year Linda McMahon left her position as Chief of the Small Business Administration to form the American First Action super PAC.
From a financial point of view, WWE had to continue taping during the coronavirus pandemic. As Forbes pointed out, the WWE stood to lose millions if it couldn’t continue taping in Orlando.

“WWE’s current contract with NBCUniversal and Fox reportedly stipulate the promotion run live in 49 out of 52 weeks,” reports the publication. “Failure to do so could result in a breach of contract or some sort of change in the deal. As a result, WWE would not receive all of its lofty, near-$400 million per-year revenue between the two networks.”

DeSantis, a governor who by all definition beat his GOP opponent in the last gubernatorial race because of Trump’s blessing, told reporters at a press conference on Tuesday that his decision to give the WWE special treatment was based on the fact that Florida residents are “starved” for new entertainment.

“I think if NASCAR does a race and can televise it without having a large crowd, I think that’s a good thing,” said DeSantis. “People are chomping at the bit,” he added.

Well, based on the fact that NASCAR's CEO is a major Trump supporter, there's a good chance we probably will see televised races pretty soon.

This story originally appeared in Creative Loafing Tampa Bay.
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